Why do people go to war? Will we ever see the end of it?
History offers patterns, but never answers. Charlemagne fought continual wars with one of the greatest army’s the world had seen–and many lived in peace as a result. With so many men fighting on the eastern border of his kingdom, there was less chance for internal fighting–and little doubt that an army would show up if a noble did start an armed dispute.
Charlemagne’s wars of Christian against pagan unified the home countries. Christian against Christian threatened division.
Besides, the pagans had the best plunder. Much of the real advances of Charlemagne’s age were financed by stealing Saxon and Avar offerings to their nature gods. (Would there have been war if they had offered primarily burnt offerings as the Hebrews did?)
And Charlemagne had no power to tax–his income came from his manors and his plunder–but he did have the right to require labor on roads, bridges, and canals and warriors to protect the borders.
At dinner one Sunday evening, Desiderata asked Pepin-Peter if he expected war with the Avars.
“Both Avars and Carinthians wish to fight more than they oppose it. They foresee only victory and plunder.” He looked to both Desiderata and Trudy, then continued.
“I told an Avar leader that Karolus had defeated the Saxons three times. After the first time, he’d baptized them and left teachers. After the second, he’d massacred their noble class. After the third, he’d taken their lands and dispersed the people.
“The Avar replied, ‘First he must defeat us.’
“Sometimes,” Pepin-Peter added, “I believe defeating the Saxons gained us nothing but trouble. We won territory that was wild and distant and hard to manage and lost more Christians in the fighting than we gained among the Saxons. But we built an army with a taste for victory that continues to grow.”
Desiderata told him of seeing the Saxons being sent into slavery and of the young woman she could not forget. “What harm would follow from letting her and her baby be free, even if they were pagan?”
“Don’t doubt for a minute that the Saxon women fought us—and, if free, the child would also. We have not cowed the Saxons as much as most believe.”
He had not seen the girl, Desiderata thought. He would not feel that way if he had seen her. Still, the proud set of the woman’s jaw and the defiance in her eyes took on new meaning for Desiderata.